P.J. Tucker began his time with Phoenix Suns as an unknown Summer League pickup who wasn’t expected to play a huge role on the team. He put up a few points and a rebound or two when he was put into games early on in the season. Who would’ve guessed he’d turn out to be one of the Suns best defensive players and a starter for the team? His breakout game arrived on November 23, 2012. Tucker up 15 points and seven rebounds, including a buzzer-beater at the end of the third quarter and a couple of rebounds that required tremendous effort late in the game.
Since that time, Tucker has become a very valuable member or a team in need of solid defense and rebounding. Now the full-time starter, he’s shown great improvement in statistical categories. Last year, he averaged 6.4 PPG and 4.4 RPG. This year, he’s moved up to 9.0 PPG and 5.6 RPG. Not fantastic, but still good, and better than it was before. Tucker has also become a common user of the corner three, and that has helped him a lot. He shot 31% from deep last year, compared to 42% this season.
He’s found a sweet spot, and there are few players with as many or more makes from the corner as he has. That’s something good players do. They know what they can and cannot do. You won’t see Tucker letting threes fly all night like you might with Gerald Green or Channing Frye. He knows his mid range stroke still isn’t the best. but he works on it, and he has found a comfortable area on offense.
P.J. is more known for his defense though. He’s an excellent defender, and that’s one reason he is a starter. The Suns needed a strong defensive presence like Tucker. Last year he held a long list of elite plays to poor shooting nights. James Harden, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James shot a total 73-184(39%) when shooting against Tucker. That’s pretty impressive. He hasn’t been able to shut down every all the time this season, but his defensive tenacity is still an excellent asset.
The stats don’t say everything about how Tucker contributes to the Suns. When he steps out on the court, he gives all he’s got on every play. Every rebound, every loose ball, every chance he has, Tucker works hard consistently. That gets an offensive board or two, but it also diffuses to teammates. The Suns have made a name this year as a team that does not quit, and Tucker embodies that idea.
Tucker is doing good things in his new chance in the NBA and only getting paid $884K to do it will be a free agent next year, I can’t imagine the Suns wouldn’t be willing to dole out some cash to retain his services, especially given his willingness to work hard and get better. He may never be a 20 PPG guy or win any awards, but he’s definitely a good player and one of many out-of-nowhere guys who call U.S> Airways Center home.